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Copa America: The Blas Pérez Show

It was the Blas Pérez show at Copa America on Monday night, as Panama won on arguably the biggest stage they’ve ever played on, beating Bolivia 2-1.

It was the Blas Pérez show at Copa America on Monday night, as Panama won on arguably the biggest stage they’ve ever played on, beating Bolivia 2-1 to open play in Group D. The Panamanian forward reminded everyone why he’s been a thorn in the side of so many Major League Soccer and CONCACAF opponents over the years, proving a constant menace throughout the match, both with his attacking prowess and his extracurricular antics.

Another MLS player, San Jose winger Alberto Quintero, showed why the Earthquakes were so keen to add him this season, providing a constant threat down the wing for Panama, and setting up Perez for the opening goal.

There was plenty of excitement in a game that really wasn’t expected to provide much entertainment. Panama and Bolivia are clearly the underdogs in Group D behind Argentina and Chile, and while Panama came into the match as the likely favorites, an extreme lack of goals for or against in recent matches left many expecting a boring game.

Instead, those who tuned in were treated to an entertaining game full of chances as a Panama squad which just barely missed out on qualifying for the 2014 World Cup sought to prove they belong on this stage. Bolivia may not have been the toughest of opponents, but in getting the win Panama gave themselves a chance to make something magical happen in one of their final two group stage matches and keep hope of advancing to the knockout round.

The Panamanian side may have been disappointed to only go into the break ahead 1-0 following the opening goal from Perez, as they dominated the chances in the first half, nearly extending their lead multiple times. Even after the opening goal, as Bolivia grew into the match and created a few chances of their own Panama looked the better side.

Bolivia equalized through Juan Carlos Arce shortly after the break as the ball fell to his feet off a free kick and he fired it past Panamanian goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, who reminded everyone why the Los Angeles Galaxy parted ways with him last summer, looking lost and indecisive on this and other plays.

For much of the second half it seemed as if Penedo might cost Panama two points and any chance of progressing. But, in the 87th minute Blas Pérez once again found himself open in the box and found the back of the net in typical Perez fashion.

While a 2-1 win over Bolivia may not seem like a huge occasion, it’s important because it keeps alive the possibility of Panama pulling off a miracle result against Argentina or Chile and advancing. If that’s to happen, it will take all the skill, confidence, and dark magic of Blas Pérez to make it so, and based on the evidence of Monday night, he’s still got all of that in spades.


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